The amount of sleep a child needs changes considerably as they grow. Based on the latest research, experts have developed sleep recommendations for children by age groups. Sleep is instrumental to a child’s growth and development at every age. Knowing how much sleep a child needs can help prevent long-lasting problems and improve the well-being of both children and caregivers.
Top 5 Sleep Tips for Children
- 1 Create a calming bedtime routine that aids in the transition to sleep.
- 2 Try positive reinforcement that encourages continued healthy habits.
- 3 Encourage plenty of daytime activity and natural daylight.
- 4 Modify the child’s bedroom to be distraction-free and sleep-inducing.
- 5 Establish consistent sleep and wake times that allow the child to get their ideal amount of sleep.
Talk to your pediatrician if your child exhibits symptoms of a sleep disorder or another problem that’s interrupting their sleep.
How Many Hours of Sleep Do Kids Need?
The amount of sleep kids need varies depending on their age. As children get older, they need fewer daily hours of sleep and take fewer naps during the daytime. Expert recommendations for daily hours of sleep for each age group includes both nighttime sleep and daytime naps.
Recommended Amount of Sleep
Infant, 4-12 months
Toddler, 1-2 years
Preschool, 3-5 years
School-age, 6-12 years
Teen, 13-18 years
Recommendations for newborns younger than 4 months are not included due to the wide variation in duration and patterns of sleep that occur during this time. The amount of daily sleep needed can vary from child to child, but there can be even more variation in total daily sleep in newborns, as some very young babies may sleep anywhere from 10 to 18 hours per day.
Why Is Sleep Important For Kids?
Sleep is an essential part of a child’s development and growth. Sleep during childhood supports important brain functions such as problem-solving and memory. As a result, children who regularly sleep fewer hours than recommended are more likely to experience difficulties with learning and daily tasks.
However, everyone’s sleep needs are different, and some children will need less sleep than others for healthy growth and development. Parents and caregivers who are concerned about their child’s sleep can discuss these concerns with their pediatrician.
How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?
Infants 4 to 12 months old usually sleep 12 to 16 hours. However, there is considerable variation in the sleep needs of individual babies. Children’s sleep schedules and patterns change quite a bit over the first 12 months.
- Newborns: Newborn sleep schedules are quite variable. Babies up to 3 months old sleep for short periods during both day and night, waking for periods of one to three hours at a time.
- 4 to 6 months: Around this age, babies may be able to sleep for six to eight hours straight, and they may begin to align their sleep with nighttime.
- 6 to 12 months: After they reach 6 months old, some babies are able to sleep for 10 to 12 hours during the night. However, nighttime awakenings may increase at around 9 months of age as many children start to have separation anxiety and seek out caregiver attention when they are alone in bed.
When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through the Night?
Babies may start to sleep through the night at 4 to 6 months old, but not every baby follows this timeline.
A newborn baby doesn’t know the difference between day and night and will wake up for feeding regardless of the time of day. However, at 4 months old, infants have started to develop a circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal timekeeping system that makes us sleepy in the evening.
Even as they start to develop a circadian rhythm, many babies may still wake up during the night. Research suggests that there is no known impact on a baby’s development if it takes them a while to start sleeping through the night.
Parents and caregivers can encourage their baby to start sleeping through the night by making sure their daytime hours involve plenty of activity and natural light. In the evening, their bedroom should be dark and free of loud noises. These cues can help a child’s body get used to the day-night cycle.
What Is a Safe Sleep Environment for Babies?
Given that babies spend most of their day sleeping, it’s important to ensure they sleep in a safe environment. Key recommendations for safe sleep include:
- Putting a baby to sleep on their back
- Keeping a baby in the same room as a caregiver but in a separate sleep space
- Using a crib or other sleeping surface that is firm, level, and covered with a fitted sheet
- Keeping soft objects out of the sleep space, including bumpers, toys, and blankets
Experts advise that following these recommendations can dramatically reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
What to Do If Your Baby Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep
If your baby isn’t getting enough sleep, there are strategies you can try to help them get the sleep they need.
- Put your baby to sleep while they are drowsy: Avoid putting your baby to bed after they have fallen asleep. Putting your baby to sleep while they are drowsy will help them learn to fall asleep on their own, fall back asleep without help if they awaken during the night, and associate their crib with bedtime.
- Soothe your baby without removing them from the crib: If your baby cries when you put them to bed, comfort them without removing them from their sleep space. Talk with your pediatrician to determine the cause of their upset and develop a plan for how to soothe your baby if crying is an ongoing concern.
- Create a bedtime routine: Establishing a consistent bedtime routine will help your baby associate certain familiar activities with preparing for sleep. This routine can include rocking, bathing, putting on pajamas, reading, lowering the lights, and feeding your baby right before bed.
If you’re concerned about your baby’s sleep health, talk to your pediatrician and ask for specific guidance about how you can improve your baby’s sleep. Consider keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks to track your baby’s sleep habits. A sleep diary can help your doctor determine if there are any sleep problems that need to be addressed.
How Much Sleep Do Older Children Need?
As children get older, they need fewer hours of sleep per day and are less likely to take naps. Understanding a child’s sleep needs can help parents and caregivers adapt and provide the best conditions possible for them to sleep well.
Toddlers should get 11 to 14 total hours of sleep per day, including naps. Starting at around 18 months old, children may transition to taking just one nap per day.
Toddlers commonly wake up briefly during the night. In addition, between 10% and 15% of toddlers may be fussy and refuse to go to bed at night. This bedtime resistance usually stems from separation anxiety, which is a fear of being left alone.
Experts recommend that children ages 3 to 5 years old get 10 to 13 total hours of sleep daily. Some preschool kids continue to nap, while others stop napping regularly.
Napping is a normal and healthy part of early childhood that helps the growing brain learn and store memories. Every child is different, and while most children stop napping by age 5, there is no specific age a child needs to stop napping.
For children ages 6 to 12, the recommended amount of sleep per night is 9 to 12 hours. Most kids in this age group no longer take naps, though research suggests that naps can still be beneficial for some children’s mood, behavior, and school performance.
School-age children may encounter more difficulty getting the sleep they need as they move toward adolescence. In one large survey, over half of American middle schoolers reported getting less than the recommended amount of sleep on school nights.
Teens should sleep 8 to 10 hours per night, but over 70% of American high school students aren’t getting this amount of rest.
During puberty and into adolescence, the body’s circadian rhythm naturally shifts to prefer later bedtimes. For many teens, work, sports, and social engagements cut into the time needed to get adequate sleep. Early school start times in many school districts exacerbate sleep deprivation in teens.Shop the Best Mattresses for Kids
Signs Your Child May Need More Sleep
Certain characteristics of your child’s daytime behavior can be a sign of insufficient sleep, including:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty paying attention
- Lack of motivation
- Problematic behavior
- Feeling mad, impulsive, or depressed
- Poor school performance
- Weight gain
Certain symptoms are more common in particular age groups. For example, younger children are likely to be overly active when sleep deprived. While it may seem counterintuitive, hyperactivity can be a sign of the body fighting to stay awake.
Parents and caregivers are often not able to tell if the signs and symptoms a child exhibits are related to sleep or another problem. For that reason, it’s best to consult with your child’s doctor.
How to Help Your Child Sleep
Depending on the age of your child, you can help them sleep better using a combination of strategies.
- Establish a consistent bedtime: Set a specific bedtime and wake-up time for your child. Make sure the schedule allows for the recommended hours of sleep for their age. If your child doesn’t feel sleepy until later at night, try gradually adjusting their bedtime to be earlier in the evening.
- Create an evening routine: A consistent bedtime routine can help your child associate certain activities with the transition to sleep. Try relaxing activities like taking a bath or reading a book, and be sure to avoid electronic devices, such as TVs, tablets, and smartphones, for an hour or more before bedtime.
- Try positive reinforcement: Praising or rewarding your child for good sleep behavior provides an incentive for them to continue healthy habits that can serve them into the future. The types of positive reinforcement you provide can be adapted based on your child’s age.
- Get plenty of daytime activity: Daytime activity and exposure to natural light during the day can help improve your child’s sleep. It’s also best to avoid late-afternoon or evening naps.
- Improve the sleep environment: Make sure your child’s sleeping surface or mattress is appropriate for their age. As much as possible, try to keep their sleep environment comfortable and free of sound or light that could interrupt sleep.
If you have questions about sleep strategies or if the approaches you’ve tried aren’t working, talk to a pediatrician about any additional steps you can take to help your child get a better night’s rest.
Ask the Sleep Doctor
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